Spawned from the dissolution of Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship became one of the more successful arena rock draws of the 1970s and early '80s and enjoyed more commercial viability than its predecessor in large part due to the greater pop sensibilities of the new incarnation. Jefferson Airplane, a seminal psychedelic rock band popular for songs like "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit", began to fragment when lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady delved further into their side project Hot Tuna, while the other creative half of the band, rhythm guitarist and singer Paul Kantner and singer Grace Slick became more isolated as a romantic couple who had their own musical interests and desires. In addition, Marty Balin, who originally founded the band, grew fed up with conflict and quit the band in 1970.
With Airplane's breakup inevitable, Kantner focused his efforts on his solo concept album Blows Against the Empire, a record that saw the first use of the Jefferson Starship moniker, although the band that would later take on the name had yet to take a definable shape. Blows saw contributions from members of the Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, as well as Grace Slick and Quicksilver Messenger Service's David Freiberg, both of whom would be fixtures of the Jefferson Starship's official formation. When it was clear to Kantner that Kaukonen and Casady were in no mood to continue on with Jefferson Airplane, he decided to create a permanent touring band that would become Jefferson Starship. Along with Kantner, Slick, and Freiberg the Starship lineup included Papa John Creach on violin, Kaukonen's brother Peter on bass, John Barbata on drums, and Craig Chaquico on lead guitar.
After a brief tour in 1974 Rod Stewart keyboardist Pete Sears replaced Peter Kaukonen on bass and Keyboards, and Jefferson Starship hit the studio to record their first official album together (Dragon Fly), enlisting the help of Balin to write and sing the ballad "Caroline." He would soon join the band permanently after a few live performances. Their next release, Red Octopus, became more commercially successful than any previous or future albums by either the Airplane or Starship groups. Balin's "Miracles" was an instant success as a single, and the album went on to sell more than two million copies.
The commercial success and pop driven melodies set the standard for the musical direction of the band, opting for a more accessible sound. Unfortunately for the band, the next couple years saw troubles and tragedies: Slick, plagued by health issues and drug and alcohol abuse, left the band, Balin also quit, and Barbata was unable to continue after a near fatal car accident. Kantner and the band pressed on, releasing their fifth studio album Freedom at Point Zero in 1979. While not as successful as some of their previous work, the album went gold and had a top 20 hit with "Jane", and two years later a now cleaned up Slick was back in the band.
By the mid-'80s, Kantner had grown tired of the project and left the group, assuming Jefferson Starship would disband upon his departure. The band, however was not on the same page, and after a lawsuit to determine ownership of the name Jefferson Starship, the band retired the name and went ahead as simply Starship. Starship went on to record the smash hits "We Built This City" and "Sara", both of which hit #1 and helped the accompanying album, Knee Deep in the Hoopla, go platinum. Kantner, Casady, Balin, and Slick would later go on to do a one-off Jefferson Airplane reunion in 1989.